IF BORIS Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn cannot have a civilised TV debate over the complex challenges facing the country, and answer a simple question about trust, how on earth do they expect to unite Britain after December 12?
This was illustrated by the incredulity of the studio audience, and ITV’s equally exasperated presenter Julie Etchingham, when both men were put on the spot about integrity, personal responsibility and if the truth still matters in this election. What an indictment against them.
The awkwardness of their handshake, when challenged to commit to improve the conduct of politics, could not have been further removed from the first leaders’ debate in 2010 when David Cameron and Gordon Brown assiduously courted Nick Clegg by repeatedly saying ‘I agree with Nick’.
Looking back, the aftermath of the global financial crash was a relatively benign political period compared to today’s divisiveness that has been fuelled by Brexit, and the polarisation of politics, as both parties lurch away from the centre ground.
Not only is there a nasty and spiteful under-current to the campaigning of today – there are still lessons to be learned from the ‘more in common’ mantra articulated by Batley and Spen MP Jo Cox before her murder in 2016 – but a relentless negativity after the PM, and Mr Corbyn, repeatedly ducked questions about their own policies.
A general election should be a time of national renewal – one which offers hope for the future once the political reset button has been pressed by the electorate. However, if this debate was indicative of the state of the country and calibre of leadership on offer, there is now a very real prospect that Britain will be left even more divided by Mr Johnson and Mr Corbyn’s inability to show the statesmanship and conciliation that these times, and Brexit, demand.